University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry seeks outstanding individuals with a passion for advancing oral health. Through each individual program at Pacific, we identify, recruit and admit applicants who collectively make up a well-rounded and diverse student body. We invite you to join us in making an impact. Explore our programs and learn about our people here.

DDS '23 Class Stats

Our dental school is a pioneer in competency-based dental education — an approach that replaces the traditional system of clinical requirements with experiences that ensure graduates possess the skills, understanding and professional values needed for the independent practice of general dentistry.

The school’s comprehensive patient care program is based on the concept of private dental practice where the student assumes responsibility for assigned patients’ treatment, consultation, and referral for specialty care. Second-year students practice clinical dentistry 15 hours per week, learning to provide comprehensive dental care under the direction of group practice administrators and multidisciplinary faculty from diagnostic sciences, periodontics, endodontics, orthodontics, removable prosthodontics and restorative dentistry.

Third-year students practice clinical dentistry approximately 33 hours per week and provide care to all patients in his or her patient population. Occasionally other caregivers, a second- or third-year student or resident, complete certain procedures in a treatment plan. This is done through the group practice leader (GPL) and requires the approval of the patient. The student dentist originally assigned to provide care to the patient maintains responsibility for care during all treatment provided by other students or residents.

In the third-year clinic, the group practice mentor (GPM) supervises oral diagnosis and treatment planning, emergencies, operative dentistry and fixed prosthodontics, including test cases. There are three GPMs in each group practice during a clinic session and students work with all three mentors during the course of most appointments. The GPM monitors the progress of care and completes periodic case reviews with the patient and the student. The complex care clinic allows students to treat technically difficult restorative cases under the supervision of a trained prosthodontist with a low student-to-faculty ratio.

The second- and third-year class is divided into eight groups. Each group practice is managed by a group practice leader, who has responsibility for the care of patients by all students and faculty in the group practice. The other clinical disciplines are managed by faculty who do not have specific responsibility for a certain group of students. Specialists in endodontics and removable prosthodontics manage all of those cases in specified areas of the clinic, including test cases. Periodontists manage periodontal procedures.

Oral and maxillofacial surgery, implantology, pediatric dentistry and radiology are learned in respective specialty clinics. Doctoral students participate with faculty and orthodontic residents in adjunctive orthodontic care and in oral development clinics. Advanced clinical dentistry and evaluation of new developments and topics that involve several disciplines are learned in the third year in conjunction with patient care.

The 2017 Strategic Plan is entitled “Transforming the Future of Oral Health Education,” and the school’s vision statement reads “improving health and wellness through innovation in programs, partnerships, and people.” The Pacific Helix Curriculum, a unique curricular model that integrates content across disciplines and years-in-program and emphasizes active learning and the development of critical thinking, aligns nicely with both the Strategic Plan and the vision statement, and reinforces the school’s commitment to innovation and leadership in dental education.    

Hallmarks of the Helix model are active classrooms, small group case-based learning, and the prudent use of technology to extend learning beyond the traditional classroom. To support and advance the new model, the school has increased the number of full-time faculty, focusing specifically on recruiting educators who fit the model, and provides ongoing expert training in principles of 21st century pedagogy and Web 2.0 tools. A full-time doctorally trained faculty developer/instructional designer is on staff to guide faculty in considering innovations to existing courses or to assist in the design of new ones.  

Integrated Clinical Sciences Curriculum (ICS)

Foundational knowledge in the sciences are integrated with patient care and interpersonal skills across all years of the program. The first-year ICS course, "Orientation to the Clinical Practice of General Dentistry," covers how to address patients, collect information, and prepare to treat them. Students learn through lectures, seminars, and clinical and case-based exercises about key topics such as diagnostic sciences, communication skills, patient management, ethics, and clinic systems. In the second-year course, learning shifts to treatment planning and delivery of care, while reinforcing the foundational sciences and communication skills. Faculty are from a broad spectrum of basic science, clinical departments, and practice backgrounds. Students focus on clinical dentistry as a whole rather than as individual disciplines. Students think beyond the "ideal" skills and protocols of first year to the application of skills to real patients in clinic. The third-year course covers themes involving all aspects of clinical dentistry—technical, scientific, and human interaction.  Students participate in small group seminars and give formal presentations to faculty and each other to demonstrate an understanding of evidence-based treatment and patient care. 

Integrated Preclinical Technique

The IPT strand is designed to go beyond the strengths of our existing clinical preparation and to leverage opportunities to develop broad skill sets, including patient communication, that are necessary for the successful practice of dentistry. This strand includes advances in contemporary dental techniques and technologies now widely used in private practice, such as digital impressions and radiographs. Learning begins with a mastery of foundational concepts and terminology, then moving to an interdisciplinary thinking model, and culminates in increasingly complex patient cases simulating the clinical experience. Authentic learning and safe guided practice is the heart of the IPT strand.

Integrated Medical Sciences

The IMS strand is undergoing a significant revision to align its content more closely with the school’s new competency statements and Strategic Plan, while preparing students thoroughly for the integrated national board exam that will launch in 2020. The redesigned strand retains some of the traditional content, but introduces and integrates new areas that future practitioners will need to succeed: medicine, geriatrics, epidemiology, statistics, research methodology, and social determinants of health and wellness. The biomedical science faculty and their dentist peers are creating a strand that provides a strong foundation in medical sciences and explicitly connects this knowledge to oral health and patient care.  

Clinical Practice

The student's clinical group practice is the central organizing unit of the clinical experience. Composed of an equal number of first-, second-, and third-year dental students, as well as advanced standing students from the International Dental Studies program, clinic teams enable an experience of modern comprehensive patient care that students will encounter in private practice.

Personal Instruction Program (PIP)

This strand gives students the opportunity to customize learning. Guided by their own interest and curiosity, the student develops a unique pathway to experiences in a field or area related to dentistry that is not available in the core curriculum. All PIPs require documented foundational knowledge, an experiential learning piece, and a work product. Many PIPs also include a cumulative reflective essay in which the student analyzes the value of the project and the resulting personal growth. All students work with an expert in the field of interest, but the mentor serves only in an adjunctive, advisory role; the student develops the idea and drives the project. Topics span a range of ideas, from the epidemiology of oral disease in the Caribbean to developing a peer technique lab project, from research in dental education to more traditional bench and applied research of the health professions.